The Clean Water Act protections will safeguard the people, waters, wildlife and lands of Bristol Bay ensuring future health and a regenerative economy for generations to come.

February 1, 2023

By Ramona du Houx

On January 31st, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized 404© Clean water Act protections that will stop the proposed Pebble Mine from being built at the Headwaters of Bristol Bay (approximately 200 miles southwest of Anchorage, AK). The act bans the disposal of mine waste in part of the bay’s watershed. The streams in the watershed are crucial breeding grounds for salmon, a source for the economy of the surrounding communities.

Home to the world’s largest and most valuable wild salmon fishery, Bristol Bay has been at risk due to the proposed Pebble Mine for the last two decades. In the 50-year history of the Clean Water Act, EPA has used its Section 404(c) authority judiciously. Today’s action marks the third time in 30 years, and only the 14th time in the history of the Clean Water Act, that EPA has used this authority. This highlights the value of the Bristol Bay watershed’s fishery resources.

“The Bristol Bay watershed is a vital economic driver, providing jobs, sustenance, and significant ecological and cultural value to the region,” said EPA Administrator Michael Regan. “With this action, EPA is advancing its commitment to help protect this one-of-a-kind ecosystem, safeguard an essential Alaskan industry, and preserve the way of life for more than two dozen Alaska Native villages.”

That threat created uncertainty for the businesses and industries that depend on the productivity and health of Bristol Bay’s wild salmon. At a time of great instability in our supply chains, our industries cannot continue to carry that burden,.

“ASBN is honored to work with Businesses for Bristol Bay in advocacy to protect Bristol Bay since 2021. We have stood with the local communities and businesses in opposition to Pebble Mine and commend the EPA for recognizing Bristol Bay as an exceptional place deserving of exceptional protection while restoring science and public trust in the 404© process.” said David Levine, Co-Founder and President of the American Sustainable Business Network.

Bristol Bay’s wild salmon support a renewable economic engine that drives Alaska’s economy and feeds into a variety of business sectors around the country. From commercial fishing to tourism to food service to recreation, Bristol Bay’s salmon provide income for thousands of businesses, support 15,000 jobs, and generate $2.2 billion in annual economic activity.

In 2021, Bristol Bay contributed 57 percent of the world’s wild salmon harvest. And, as they have for millennia, the wild salmon returning each year to Bristol Bay ensure a way of life for Alaska Native communities, providing food, livelihoods and a vibrant cultural touchstone.

“Since Businesses for Conservation & Climate Actions’ (BCCA) inception, permanent protections for Bristol Bay have been at the forefront of our policy objectives. Our alliance of businesses and Tribes have prioritized outcomes that uplift local Indigenous voices – this is an example of the Biden Administration taking that same tack and we applaud this announcement and thank the Administration for listening to the people of Bristol Bay. We look forward to continuing to work with the Biden Administration toward further local and Indigenous-led conservation policy outcomes.” said Ephraim Froehlich, Alaska and Pacific Northwest Policy Coordinator BCCA.

ASBN’s companies and organizations support final 404© Clean Water Act protections that advance the long-term economic health of our country, defend thousands of renewable American jobs. The EPA’s determination ensures that the people of Bristol Bay can live without the Pebble Mine overshadowing their future

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